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Firefighters making do with inadequate resources

October 24, 2007 |  2:41 pm

Spring Valley:

Near the front lines of the Harris fire in San Diego this morning, officials said they were going to do what they could with available resources. By 10 a.m. more than 73,000 acres had burned, 200 structures were destroyed and another 250 damaged. One DC-10 and 17 helicopters were on site, officials said. About 4,500 residents remained under evacuation orders.

CDF Capt. Scott McClean said calmer winds had helped the 1,200 firefighters on the frontline but extremely low humidity and high temperature continued to be worrisome.

"Those 1,200 personnel are a little less than a third of what we need to fight a fire this big," said CDF Capt. Scott McLean. "They're tired ... they've got a long road to go as well."

At an evacuation center and makeshift command post at Steele Canyon High School, McLean said fire was still threatening structures along Highway 94 from Jamul to the east to Jamacha on the west. Overnight, Lyons Peak burned and the blaze jumped a perimeter control line set up by firefighters.

McClean said firefighters were struggling to stay on top of small spot fires that were continuing to flare up even in areas that they had already cleared.

George Broyles, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman, said wind conditions had improved enough to permit airplane and helicopters to make effective water and fire retardant drops. But he said competing winds from the east and west were creating swirling patterns in the fire zone, further complicating firefighting efforts and making it difficult for those on the frontlines to predict which direction the fire was heading.

Officials said areas that remained under evacuation orders were: Potrero, Barrett Junction, Engineer Springs, Dulzura, Deerhorn Valley, Tecate, Indian Springs, Jamul North Jamul, and the "Point" in Spring Valley.

Inside the gym, a couple of hundred evacuees crowded around. Some teenagers played cards on the bleachers. Outside, residents camped in the parking lot, some with dogs tied to their trucks.

-- Ari Bloomekatz